Football Digest: Man Utd with work to do after sluggish start
Andre Onana’s early performances have taken aback Manchester United fans since joining in a £47million transfer from Inter Milan this summer. But Erik ten Hag is set to go without his new goalkeeper over the winter period due to a U-turn over his international status, according to reports.
United have started the season slowly, uninspiring in victory against Wolves and underwhelming in defeat at Tottenham Hotspur.
But Onana has provided a refreshing change of pace at the foundation of Ten Hag’s side, demonstrating breathtaking passing range and the ability to command his area.
David de Gea struggled with both traits, leading to his release at the end of his contract in July at the request of Ten Hag.
African signings always come with looming concerns about their involvement at the Africa Cup of Nations – which occurs every two years midway through the season.
But a significant bonus of Onana’s arrival was his international status, having retired from Cameroon duty after a falling out with manager Rigobert Song at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
That said, a reported U-turn on Onana’s Cameroon career may be about to land a painful blow to United ahead of the new year.
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According to Cameroonian outlet La Taniere, the 27-year-old is expected to return to Song’s squad for the September international break.
Cameroon face Burundi in AFCON qualifying on September 12 as they look to qualify with Namibia out of Group C.
The report claims Onana has been negotiating with the Cameroonian government over a potential return.
And if he returns to international duty, Onana could be missing for United’s first four games of 2024. It’s a problem Liverpool fans have grown accustomed to facing with Mohamed Salah.
AFCON runs from January 13, 2024, to February 11, 2024, running simultaneously with the return of football after the winter break.
If Cameroon go all the way, Onana may be absent for United’s home games against Tottenham and West Ham United and away trips to Wolves and Aston Villa.
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Onana has earned 34 caps since making his Cameroon debut in 2016 but announced his retirement after being suspended during the World Cup.
He flew out of Qatar and later confirmed that his “story with the Cameroonian national team has come to an end”.
United currently have Dean Henderson and Tom Heaton as cover options, with a new goalkeeper expected to arrive if the former leaves before the summer deadline.
Fenerbahce stopper Altay Bayindir has undergone medical checks with the view of completing a move to Old Trafford worth around £5m.
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